The FAFSA Is Changing

by | Dec 6, 2023 | College, High School, News

Important Things For Parents to Know

Normally the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) becomes available in early October, but due to a major overhaul in the form, the form will not be available for the current year until December 31st. The delay is due to a substantial overhaul required by the FAFSA Simplification Act (2022).

Some of the major changes include requiring the direct transfer of IRS information to FAFSA; increased eligibility for need-based grants; elimination of the discount for having multiple students in college; the new designation of “contributor” which applies to anyone who provides financial or personal information for the student. In addition, the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) is now replaced by SAI (Student Aid Index).

FAFSA is an almost universal part of the college application process for high school seniors. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 85% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid for college. Among the many forms of student aid are Federal Pell Grants, state and local scholarships (Promise, Higher Education Grant, WV Stem Scholarship, WV Nursing Scholarship program), grants and scholarships provided by the college, and student loans. Most of these forms of aid require a FAFSA to determine a student’s eligibility for aid.

How do we prepare to fill out the FAFSA?

  1. An FSA ID must be created for the student and all contributors.  All individuals involved must have their own email, phone number, and FSA ID. The FSA ID needs to be done at least 3 days before starting the FAFSA to allow time for the verification process. If you are married and file your federal taxes jointly, you will only need one FSA ID for both parents; but if you file your federal taxes separately, you will need to have an FSA ID for both parents.
  2. Gather your tax forms for the tax year 2022 for both the student and the parent.
  3. Compile banking information, including the total amount of all cash, savings, checking accounts, etc.  – again, for both the student and parents.
  4. Determine the net worth of any business, including farms. The new form is expected to eliminate the exemption for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Hurry Up and Wait

Completing the FAFSA as soon as possible is advisable. While some aid (like PROMISE and Pell Grants) just has to be submitted by a given date, other scholarships and aid are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Given the delay in the FAFSA rollout, colleges are saying that it will probably be late February or early March before award notifications will begin to be sent out this year.

Common FAFSA errors that cause delay:

  1. Selecting the wrong aid year. Use 2024-2025 for fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025.
  2. Not consenting to transfer tax information; consent is required before the FAFSA will be processed.
  3. Submitting incorrect information when creating FSA ID.
  4. Sending FAFSA to the wrong school.  Double-check codes for colleges during application,  and if college choice changes, be sure to update and have the FAFSA information sent to the new choice(s).
  5. Incorrectly answering “yes” to dependent status questions.
  6. Not regularly checking email (student and all contributors) for additional information that would need to be corrected or submitted. It is common for applications to be selected for an audit, which then requires additional documentation.  Most communications will go to the student, so remind them to check their email regularly and not just their texts!

In summary, create an FSA ID for the student as well as all contributors sometime in December.  Then be sure to complete the FAFSA application carefully and in a timely manner, once it becomes available at the end of December.  Be alert for communications that require any additional information.

Additional resources:

Federal Student Aid video playlist

Try the FAFSA protype

Create your FSA IDs

Federal Student Aid

Create your account on College for WV to learn more about WV state scholarships

*** All the information in this article is subject to change. Final directives have not been confirmed by the Federal Department of Education.